Skip to main content

tv   Tavis Smiley  KQED  October 10, 2012 2:30pm-3:00pm PDT

2:30 pm
tavis: good evening. from los angeles, i am tavis smiley. tonight a conversation with the first african-american woman to win best director at the sundance film festival. her project is the film "middle of nowhere." it opens this weekend in new york, l.a., and other select cities. we're glad you joined us. a conversation with filmmaker ava duvernay coming up right now. >> there is a saying that dr. king had that said there is always the right time to do the right thing. i try to live my life every day by doing the right thing. we know that we are only halfway to completely eliminating hunger and we have work to do. walmart committed $2 billion to fighting hunger in the u.s. as we work together, we can stamp hunger out.
2:31 pm
>> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. tavis: ava duvernay became the first african-american woman to win best director at this year's sundance film festival. the movie is set in south l.a. and looks at the life of a woman whose husband is sentenced to eight years in prison. here are some scenes from "middle of nowhere." >> do not be marder. >> i am a wife. >> we will see each other every weekend. >> i do not want you to stop for
2:32 pm
me, baby. >> we're somewhere in between, in the middle place. >> he is a convicted felon. >> i am trying. we're trying. >> excuse me. i thought that was you. i am bryan. >> it cannot see 2 feet in front of you. >> i'm going to try to be. >> i am trying to come home. we got something, do we? >> the future, it does not exist. until we get there. tavis: i want to start at what might be an unorthodox place for most conversations. i want to come back to the film in a moment. the film is what everybody is talking about now. i know from my own journey ensures that there is a long
2:33 pm
back story to get to being the first african-american woman to win the best director. there is a long back story to this huge codey near times profile of you. this project is the first movie that you wrote that you could not get it financed. it could not get it done. you have to go do something else that could get finance to come back to this. tell me about the journey that led to this place. and what the audience to appreciate you have to go to where everyone is talking about ava duvernay. >> i had to make something i could finance myself. to storiestting no's about the interior lives of black women, not top of the list to be made by studios. a lot of closed doors and we had to go through that to get to a
2:34 pm
place where i understood that there is a way to do it without permission and to get to a place where i could empower myself to make the film and tell the stories i want to tell. the first film i wrote, "middle of nowhere," the first film i wrote. we made a film on 50 grand and everyone worked for $100 a day. that film came out last year and proved the point there is an audience for this kind of story and we were able to put together more money for "middle of nowhere" finally. tavis: how does that make you feel? it is a beautiful thing to see somebody who has -- exercises that right to self- determination. uses the agency they do have to bring the budget to life and i want to be mindful that most folks do not have staff handed to them. i do not want you to think i am
2:35 pm
waiting on your behalf. everyone struggles to make something happen. the fight to bring certain stories to film is remarkably more difficult. and infinitely harder to do than other stories. how do you process, how you emotionally process the journey to take -- that got you to this place? >> i love it. it got me to a sell from howard place. i worked for the public system for years and booked many aghast and sat on this couch. that is demystified for me in some ways. i know what is when i walk into a red carpet. i am looking at the carpet and being like, i know what vendor they got the corporate from. i have been rolling it myself. it has been demystified for me then for the average film maker. with that knowledge coupled with this newfound energy around
2:36 pm
doing things a different way, i feel like i am in a beautiful place to make films the way want to make them. >> how did you navigate? knowing what you really wanted to do in knowing what you were gifted and talented enough to do but you were booking other people to come on my show. my show and other people's shows. how did you process that? >> this has helped me to become a filmmaker. i did not start out thinking i could ever make films. i started out looking films and wanting to have a job that put me close to them and close to filmmakers and cents. publicity is of the dead loved and was good at. and enjoyed and made the money for and this amount of time. -- nice amount of time. i caught the bug. i do not have to just love them,
2:37 pm
i can create them. >> this is my question and when this hits the twitterverse and facebook, i will take responsibility. i'm not saying this to bash or demonize or cast aspersion on tyler perry but there is a formula in this town that you could have used to make this process easier for you. there is a certain type of film that if you make it, the studios will throw money at you that you did not ask for. it will give you deals beyond the movies to do tv shows. negroes will turn out in droves to see them. there is a formula that makes money and it makes it easier to get your projects made because white folk will throw money at you to get the kind of story told. that is my statement, not yours. why take the road less traveled? why take -- engage a process that you know is going to be difficult to climb, the you know
2:38 pm
you're not getting money for. why do that? what drives someone to be their head against the wall when you know there is another way. there is another formula you could have employed. >> that is not a hard question at all. those things are valid. my mom loves the films. she knows i am thinking about her. she gets off a hard their work and she wants to enjoy something that is light and she should be able to. i want balance. those films have a place and people enjoy them and that is fine and good. enjoy this. there needs to be nuance and an expanse of our reality and humanity. there was a time when we were seeing those films and have gone by the wayside. i am trying to bring back films, we had beautiful films that
2:39 pm
show the wider bray of our family. tavis: these are facts. lyders hollywood have such a problem with that issue of balance -- why does hollywood have such a problem with that issue of balance? there are other small films that do not make money. people go to sundance every year. hollywood these days celebrates and industry celebrates and the critics love a project that comes out of know where they did not see coming that was independently produced. i will not buy the argument they have to make money. these things that do not make money to get celebrated. it is more about the story line. >> i think that -- if you want market down that a non-black filmmakers have had many years and opportunities to tell stories about themselves and black filmmakers have not had as many years and opportunities to explore the nuances of our reality. the day, film's see
2:40 pm
there rallied upon or -- we're trying to fit into an industry that does not have a place. for these types of films. we're trying to create something else over here. that is the difference now between the 1990's explosion of black filmmakers that made independent films soon made films for the studios and that died down. this cadre of black filmmakers i work with now, 30 or 40 have made their first or second film. they're telling the contemporary drama, the nuanced view of black american life. it is happening, it is there. there is not a current please rise in the system and not to bang your head against the wall. if we want to have that place there are certain types of films we can do.
2:41 pm
that is true for hob if you're making -- for if you are making a film for there's that. if you're outside dominant culture you will have to do it for yourself. you'll have to do quite a bit too get to a level where it is being heard by people who look at a certain fear of cinema. tavis: which raises a few more questions. your project has done all that. most projects the matter what the story line is, most projects to not do all that. even to get to this
2:42 pm
to get into your profile. to get you to this place. most films do not have to do that. how do filmmakers, how do they get over that hurdle? >> we do not know where this is. they're releasing it as a participant. the conversations i have with bookers, the theaters to do not take the film. they do not believe there is an audience for it. they do not believe that there is a black audience that wants to see complexity. we know that is true. it is a fight. we are in theaters. we have full runs, looking like any other studio but it is hard fought. will white folk come to see this film that is made about a black
2:43 pm
woman by a black woman? will black folk come to see it? we will not know until friday. >tavis: we talked a moment ago. i think i was too hard. we talked about hollywood and its complicity. there is black filmmakers and black people. what happens if black folk do not see this film? >> i do not believe that. tavis: if you wait -- we were having a debate, i do not want
2:44 pm
to believe that based on the evidence, based on the data, i believe i can make a persuasive case that you cannot get a bunch of black folk. take beyond. i believe it. -- take me on. >> of their -- these films are not being marketed correctly. the mr. butters are not being met with marketing campaigns -- they are not being met with marketing campaigns. what we are saying is we are booking at theaters you
2:45 pm
film is for you. i have or john campaign -- been on campaigns where this needs to happen. there is nothing with what you're talking about. we need some friday on the plate. we're trying to get films that nourish and there are certain there. get folks tavis: nicely done. major props. the other constituency would be that of black filmmakers. i want to see this with all due respect. you have done what most people talk about doing. black folk can talk about something but never really make it happen. i run across those people every day. pbs did not give me a show, npr did not just give me a show, i had to get to a place to owning.
2:46 pm
and yet i see people who are more gifted and talented than i am the they do not want to put the muscle behind their own idea. you talk about making this first film for $50,000. it made its money three or four times over. >> eight times. tavis: this was a project you had invested. $50,000 for somebody who has nothing may seem like a lot of money but that is not a whole lot of money. you just have to make the choice that you believed in your idea and you had a good idea to put your money where mouth is. you put your 50 grand up and it made your money. that is a long way of asking whether or not in the world we live today with all this available through technology and all you can do at your computer at your house and the minicam, how much of this is excuse
2:47 pm
making now where we do not at least put the project out there and try to make it happen? >> the films are being made. the industry is gone. the barriers to get it distributed at a level where you make it to this character difficult. there are three or four dozen black filmmakers in their 30's, early 40's, lay 20's, men and women in equal numbers, making beautiful films. is there an audience for them? want to prove that, the hollywood machinery will, and if they do not come, we create our own ways to do that. it is choice. people are like, i want to write a script. have you read the book? do have a final draft? and. how're you going to do that?
2:48 pm
where do you study? no. we know those people. i also know brilliant people who are making this black independent cinema, this new wave that we're calling it. a few of us are getting studios. there are tons of us and we need to find a way to reach your audience. it does not necessarily have to be with studio permission. there are new ways to reach folks. tavis: now that you have been accommodating for me in a conversation that has gone everywhere, let's talk about "middle of nowhere." let's talk about this project. >> it is a love story set in a world that does not get a lot of -- women in waiting who are really -- it is really dark and unexplored places. we explore the world of so many
2:49 pm
movies and the identity crisis she goes through. it is looking at the interior lives of sisters. explores incarceration. trying to show a fuller view. tavis: who was the audience? >> anyone who likes a good movie. it truly is. we have to redefine what black film is. a lot of filmmakers did not want to be called black filmmakers. i do not -- i am filmmaker first. i make films about black women and it does not mean you cannot see this as a white man or woman. i see iranian films and japanese films. why is it just for them when it comes to black films? it is how it is presented.
2:50 pm
we're saying it is time to do away with that. this is a beautiful film made by and about black people. everyone is welcome. tavis: they did not have an african-american director for "beast of the southern while." that movie is done remarkably well and made money. talk to me about whether or not there is evidence that suggests why people specifically will go see the film. they have gone to see "beast." >> it has been marketed as an independent tool. not as a black film and that is fine. they affirm all our people around the country who are working to make this happen. this is a black film and that should not stop you from seeing it. there's something to be said about films that are interpretations.
2:51 pm
"beast" is an interpretation of a black girl's life. and reflections made about black women. we think it is valid and valuable. tavis: since you were for 70 years such an excellent publicist, -- seven years such and excellent publicist, why are you so stalwart about marketing this as a black film? i love the pride think you want the movie to work and "beast" suggests you can get a story sold and supported by marketing it a certain way, whatever that means. why market it this way? >> i have more faith in people than traditional marketers do. this has been played to a
2:52 pm
primarily white audience and people left in tears, people were moved. we should it to an all b 00-- showed it at an all black audience. >> if people see a marketed as an all black film. >> we -- you don't see it through publicity. this is a film steeped in that culture. there are easier ways to do it. black folk,s star a black woman.
2:53 pm
tavis: i love the point. >> it means lesser box office, so be it. there was a film -- people might be interested in seeing something outside themselves. tavis: here is the extra question. what is on this project specifically, what is the benchmark for you? have you already crossed it? >> it is a great question. one of the things that we need to as independent filmmakers rapport had around is especially of color and women filmmakers and the folks that do the same thing i do. these films are forever. they're much more than [inaudible] much more than all the campaign and the work we put in. this is something we want people
2:54 pm
to think about a year from now, 25 years from now. the legacy with any of the films that are made, black, white, or otherwise. the benchmark is getting it made. everything else has been a beautiful way of joye. tavis: i have been doing this almost for 10 years and i have not been prouder to have anyone else on this. now that npr and everyone else is paying attention, i hope you will pay attention as well and when this movie opens this weekend in l.a. and new york and select cities, i trust you will see it and you will be impressed and moved by it. her name is ava duvernay. do not forget it. he will have -- hearing into the future. the project is called "middle of nowhere." i will see back next time on pbs. until then, good night in l.a. and as always, keep the faith. >> want to go to a movie this
2:55 pm
weekend? >> i do not know if you like the same kind of movies i like. >> all right. what kind of movies you like? >> indie ones. foreign ones. those. >> where a brother has to read? >> ok. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at tavis: hi, i'm tavis smiley. join me next time for a conversation with lang lang on the release of his first disk dedicated to the music of chopin. >> there is a saying that dr. king had that said there is always the right time to do the right thing. i try to live my life every day by doing the right thing. we know that we are only halfway to completely eliminating hunger and we have
2:56 pm
work to do. walmart committed $2 billion to fighting hunger in the u.s. as we work together, we can stamp hunger out. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> be more. >> be more. pbs. pbs.
2:57 pm
2:58 pm
2:59 pm


disc Borrow a DVD of this show
info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on